Happening:

Extra Life


Brett Massé

What ‘Grand Theft Auto’ taught me about planning and peace

Ar 171019970
David Holub/DGO
Ar 171019970
David Holub/DGO

Chaos.

Again, we have experienced how uncertain life can be. The reminders are frequent and unsettling. The recent news is a solid right-cross to our routine, throwing us out of balance. It’s hard to remember, but soon we will regain footing.

I was playing “Grand Theft Auto V” online with some strangers, planning a heist and loading a getaway car with firearms. This Hollywood-style bank robbery job was a recent reminder of how carefully-thought-out plans don’t always come to fruition. The driver was clumsy, the drill over-heated while trying to break into the safety deposit box, and police arrived much quicker than expected after the alarm went off. Before we even had a moment to think, reaction took a white-knuckle grip to panic and we all started firing and running in opposite directions like bouncing footballs. This brought our immediate demise and half of the team left the game afterwards.

When we are knocked out of balance and everything is off-kilter, we tend to give way to our reactionary minds. The ability to combat this and find calmness is within all of us, but takes some practice to develop this skill. Now is the time to practice soothing yourself and finding that calmness. Giving way to our reactive minds usually leads us down a path of more chaos and decidedly less skillful methods of self-care. We saturate ourselves in fantasy, drink too much, oversleep, overeat – tried and true methods that usually lead to further suffering.

But you can fight this. Look and see that this is one of those times. This is the moment where you can build those tools and regain your footing, to regain your calmness, to be more rational and less reactive. The tools you build will refine with experience. It will never be easy though.

Had my heist team stuck with me, I would have asked them to calm themselves using whatever strategy works. You can close your eyes and focus on breathing, stretch your legs, look up at the sky, whatever it is as long as it works. I personally like to brew coffee: Grind beans, boil water, pre-heat a mug, make the coffee, warm my hands, take in the aroma. After asking this of my squad, I would probably be booted from the game and laughed at, but I can at least try. At the very least, I can ask you to find ways to calm yourself. It’s a nice skill to develop. Once calm, identify and understand that we are upset. Look at what bits of you are upset and comfort them. Exercise compassion and kindness. This might seem weird, but it is dire that we learn how to be compassionate and kind to ourselves.

Now reconnect with your intentions. Where can we improve on the heist? What steps can we take to better prepare? Be clear with the design and recognize that you are not defined by what happened to you or how things went wrong. You may not be totally clear on what to do next, but you know who you are and where your values lie. For me, I’m going to ask that I drive the getaway vehicle this time.

Finally, as we become clear on our intentions and reconnect, take a moment and remember that life is never what you plan for. Your personal experiences may be difficult at times, but that is not necessarily a mistake; that is normal. This is going to change as time moves on because everything is changing. Life is impersonal and your experiences are created through circumstances that are out of your control and reactions that are entirely your own.

Now, in the wake of trauma, I’m trying to remind myself of this. This moment is like this. Where do we go from here?

Brett Massé is currently playing Midnight Scenes by Octavi Navarro.